Stand Tall

Blossom

One bright Saturday morning, just after breakfast Isaac drives to a nearby mall in a rundown car with his father. He sits in the front seat, behind the rustiest door. It is fun to drive with his dad. He loves how the tires float sideways in the wet road or when his dad honks the horn. It sounds like the Sesame street blue monster bopping its nose. The mall is full of people and on each door of the store it says “Don’t miss the Father’s day sale”. He takes a sip from the  grape juice bottle as his dad takes him to the glass elevator. “ So dad, I wonder if all these people are buying gifts for their dad. If you say yes, then I should buy something for you. Right?”

Isaac’s father pulls him to one safe corner inside the elevator and adjusts the small front pocket on his son’s faded blue t-shirt. “ May be they are shopping for father’s day or they may be going to watch movie. Remember the school is out for summer. But you do not have to worry on that. We are here to enjoy our day together and that is the best gift.”

“ I agree dad.”  He concentrates on his ride in the elevator with glass walls. He feels as if he sails into the enormous blue sky like Superman. Below him, all the people has turned into moving dots.He feels tall and brave.The elevator stops and as he pushes himself out his father stops him from behind. “ Isaac! Wait for your turn. I always remind you to follow the Rules. Rules are extremely important and more exact the better.”
“ Sorry dad.”

After the mall, they visit a friend’s house who lives in a few blocks from the mall. Their house resembles a stack of beige rectangles. The rectangles are brick and they glistened after it rains. Though they look delicious, he is not supposed to taste them.That is the rule. Sometimes when he gets crazy, he licks the wall. His friend calls him retarded and his dad abruptly pulls the chair back. “ He is tired from the long hours in the mall that is all. I better take him home.”  They return home quietly; his father concentrates on the wheel and Isaac looks at the puffy white clouds and the tiny birds up in the sky.

Around six in the evening Isaac plays with his bright yellow toy train on the front porch, while his father reads a newspaper sitting on the stair. The battery of the train stops working and his toy train stops in the middle of the first round.Issac kicks the train and it hits the wall and flips. He tries hard to fix it but could not. His father closes the newspaper and looks at him.
“ Don’t be so harsh on others.”

“ Sorry dad, it will not happen again, but at the same time I do not like the way the train behaves!”

“ Have a little patience!” He sits with Isaac and helps him putting the pieces together with lots of patience. 

After dinner Isaac brings out all his rocks from a big plastic box, and spreads them on the floor. This his collection from all the national parks that he has visited with his father.Once a week, he washes and dries his rocks. Sometimes he colors them to make them brighter and happier. He feels himself as the Superman of the lifeless objects.

At the second week of August, Issac starts the middle school. His Psychiatrist has guaranteed that he is normal now.In last visit, the psychiatrist, a tall, skinny, gray-haired man Dr.Robertson asked him. “ Do you want to draw a road runner looking at the picture, while I do the tests? Or you can color it. Whichever one you like. Go ahead.”

Isaac did, he is good with eyes but with bodies! Not that much. His road runner looks like feather duster attached to a gardening rake. And now he goes to school. In the school playground he meets his old school friend Ron. He always boss him around or clearly bullies him; he kicks his desk, snaps his pencil in two, sometimes eats his lunch, bumps him from behind in the recess line. But Isaac does not how to respond so he stays quiet, does not say a word.

That afternoon it rains. The parking lot reflects the sky from a thousand puddles. His father comes to pick him after school. As Isaac walks into the house, he notices that the brick of his house is dyed dark with water. They are stacked together like crispy double vanilla sugar wafers. But he does not want to lick the brick anymore. He follows dad’s rule; no tasting the bricks. That night before, bed Issac draws a spectacular rainbow with his father, sitting on the wooden floor of the living room. And the rainbow has only his favorite colors; Blue, orange and yellow.He dreams he is riding the glass elevator into the space. The earth disappears beneath  the clouds and a billion stars. His dad says, “ You are a superhero, do you know that? “ A big  delightful smile beams on Isaac’s face.

It is a cloudless day in early summer. A few cardinals are chasing each other in the back yard through the magnolia branches. A gray squirrel is busy eating nuts. Isaac sits close to the big glass window in the dining room and eats his lucky charms in a bowl of milk.He could see the planes drawing white chalk lines in the sky. After the school, his father looks at his tired face and bruises on his hand. “ Is it Ron?”

Isaac does not reply.

“ It is time I would like to teach you how to defend yourself, son!”

The wind is moving across the yard, swirling. The leaves on the grass are all glossy and speckled. They keep lifting onto their edges then slowly toppling over. That is when his father starts to teach him to punch,how to do back kick and front kick.

Next day the a substitute teacher comes to the class; a tall, skinny young man. He allows the class to vote on everything instead of taking his own decision: “ What would you like to study next: science or history? All in favor of eating in class, raise your arms.” It is a mess. No One listens to him. As the substitute teacher leaves the classroom for lunch, the students end up eating in the class except Isaac. As Isaac opens his lunch box, Ron comes, snatches his sandwich. It falls on the floor. The whole class turn and watch but no one says a thing. During recess in the late afternoon, Isaac spots Ron on a tower. He approaches the tower and climbs the ladder. It seems as if he is riding the glass elevator. He feels tall and powerful, he rises into the clear blue sky like a superhero.Ron stands at the platform’s open edge. Isaac runs towards him and shoves him. His body hits the ground, nothing happens except a few bruises. But the principal punishes him with weeks of suspension. During the car ride from school,his father drives quietly. Isaac turns his face towards him. “It may be very wrong dad, but I had to do this. He bullies me all the time and it hurts me. I am trying to stand for myself.”

 

Love appears in strange ways

Acceptance

It is a Friday before the spring break. Daisy drives back home picking her daughter Emily from her school. In the car, Emily eats her favorite vanilla ice cream cone and tells her mother all the interesting things of her day in her school. She is a brilliant story-teller just like her father.In the middle of her story Daisy’s cell- phone rings. A call from her son.

“ Emily, please answer the phone”, Daisy says looking at the road straight.

“ Hi brother! We are going home. Do you want to speak to mom.Well she is driving so you can tell me.’’ Emily asks taking one more lick from the cone.

“ What?Really! And you did not stay there? Yes, you are supposed to. Okay, I will ask mom to rush. Bye.” Emily takes a deep breath and turns to face her mother.

“Mom, my cat has a baby in front of our house under the iron bench. And brother did not stay there. He is older than me and he should know what to do in this type of situation.Right mom? So please drive faster.I want to check on the kitten.”

Daisy is not a cat person. She likes the dogs whom you can train or who listens to your command. But cats! They have their own mind and they climb on everything. A cat always behaves like a king and all others in the house have to obey its orders.The stray cat followed her husband and daughter to the townhouse a few times and before she knows, the cat was adopted as a pet. One evening Daisy returns from work and finds a small ceramic bowl with milk at one corner of the living room. “ What is the bowl of milk doing here on the floor?” She asks.

Her husband and daughter both look at each other and reply at the same time. “ It is a part of the game that we are playing, nothing to worry.” A shiny-penny smile flash on their faces as they turn their head towards the front door. Daisy leaves the room without any doubt. After a few days, the milk bowl appears again at the same place and this time tiny dry foods on a paper plate besides the bowl. Daisy walks into the room. Inside the living room, behind the sofa her daughter plays with a cat; game with a yarn. It is very slim yellow cat with white patches on its face and paws.

“ Emily! What is the cat doing inside our house?”, she screams. The cat runs away through the open door and her daughter apologizes. “This is the stray cat that followed me and dad. She does not have any other friend. She has decided to be my friend and I could not say no to the cat.” Emily says flatly, twisting the yarn around her finger.

Daisy looks at her daughter’s pale,sad face and understands her deep affection towards the stray cat. “ So the milk bowl and the cat food are real! She takes out her shoes and pulls a chair to seat. “Why didn’t you tell the truth on the first time?” Daisy asks.

“ So here is the fact,she says wisely drawing a long breath. Emily pauses and picks her words very carefully. “ I know that you do not like cats but she is a very nice cat and I do not have any pets. Dad told me that he will talk to you later. May be he forgot.’’ The next day tabby cat gets the name Blossom and becomes one of her daughter’s best playmate. Daisy receives warm tight hug from her son and daughter. Now she has a kitten. Daisy still do not like cats.She does not say anything but anger bubbles in her mind. Now they will be two, cat and the kitten. The house will be a big mess and the cat hair! laik!

In few days the house turns into a playground of the kitten. Inside Joy and laughter gather and spread. The beautiful kitten is named Chottu. He has the same color on his body just like his mother. Sometimes he hears his mom’s voice outside and climbs the window blinds to reach her. After a few minutes you will find him dangling in the blind by his front paws.Other days he sleeps inside the shoes of either Daisy’s husband or of her son. And the only way to find out is to slip your feet into the shoes un attentively and startle to hear a soft mew from inside the shoe. Even in early morning when you are in a hurry to walk into the kitchen and unknowingly step on the tiny kitten  who likes to sleep on the middle of the room. One night around one o’clock, just after the rain, Daisy’s son Aji is busy doing his homework when he hears a sound. It is faint but sounds as if someone is begging for help. The kitten has escaped through the narrow opening of the front door. Aji has to climb the slippery fence, walks to the house-top to rescue the kitten. That is Chottu’s first adventure where he climbs the fence, goes to the rooftop but could not climb down. Daisy’s husband loves to play with Chottu. He teaches him to play with a small rope or to catch a small bouncing ball. Chottu crouches, his eyes locked on the tiny ball’s movement. He lowers his entire body with all fore legs aligned as he gently lowers his haunches, contracting them so that he becomes slightly rounded like a cocked spring. From that place, he leaps off the floor with a force, boldly pouncing on the tiny ball. Afterwards he plays the ball back and forth between his two-front paws.  

In a big city it is necessary to find a good high school. Daisy and her family decide to move into a suburb for same reason a good neighborhood and best school for Emily. Before their move they decide to give away the kitten to one of Emily’s friend whose cat just passed away from cancer. It is a very hard decision. Emily does not want to give away her pet, but she agrees to in one condition that she will visit the cat every weekend. If the kitten stays with her best friend then it may not be a big deal.

Three weeks have passed. One winter morning, on a saturday, Emily gets a phone call from her best friend. “ Hi Emily! I do not know how to say it but if you don’t mind”, she hesitates, “Please take your kitten back.”

“ Why? Is everything alright?” asks Emily with real concern.

“ He is fine, but very boisterous. Last evening he climbed the table in dad’s room and knocked the coffee mug on his laptop. It is getting a little hard to manage him.He is not an indoor cat and he will enjoy more in your house with big back yard.” She replies.

The smile on Emily’s face is wide open, sunny without a doubt on the world that everything will be wonderful today.

So they get the kitten back.Gradually Chottu transforms from kittenhood into a young wildcat. He is like a character from a daredevil story, who loves daring stunts. He is a hyperactive cat who loves to leap, climb and explore-all the big trees and house tops. Happiness, in Chottu’s world is fresh can food, a few spoons of warm milk, cat nips and climbing the trees. He loves to hide in boxes and leap out from them unexpectedly. He would honker all the way down, making sure the flap of the box is closed over his head, and spring out like a jack-in-the box to scare their dog.Some days he growls at the door. Daisy opens the door and screams. Chottu stands there with an  awesome present  either a dead small bird or a squirrel in his mouth. He does not understand the scream because he just wants to make Daisy happy with a precious gift. He forgets and repeats the same thing in another day. Daisy has a very dominant personality which classes with the cat’s personality. Sometimes it is hard to understand who is the boss is it Daisy or the cat? Having played to his heart’s content,Chottu would come inside and take his power nap on Daisy’s pretty mats in the kitchen, in the hallways or on the nice leather sofa. He sleeps like a talisman curled gently in the shape of a coma as if dug up from a prehistoric archeological site. Quietly and gingerly, he tiptoes around the house in a leisurely fashion. He loves to sit with Emily while she does her homework but not when she practices the violin. He hates the shrill sound of it.

The back yard with trees is like a forest to Chottu. He would race recklessly around one particular area and then climb high up into one of the tall trees, exploring his body in mid air-as if about to veer off in another direction.

Chottu is almost sixteen years now. Almost eighty in cat year! As soon as Daisy comes home, he greets her and follows her in happy, half-swallowed little yips. “ Yes, you are home! Feeding time. Daisy gives him his favorite can food, after that a little warm milk and a few treats. The feeding time continues until Daisy goes to bed. Chottu has slowly but surely conquered Daisy’s heart.

It is the second day of spring when Daisy notices a difference in the cat. He approaches the food bowl half heartedly, sniffs, takes one lick then walks out from the room. It is not typically his behavior. “ Are you Okay? Come I will give you a treat. Come!” Daisy says opening the treat packet. Chottu turns around and walks slowly towards Daisy. He says a small mew and sits there. He is not hungry. “It may be the can food or the food bowl. I should clean the bowl again.” Daisy murmurs. She throws the food and washes the small food bowl again. Next morning, Daisy finds the cat under the dining table. As soon as he hears the footsteps he opens his eyes, purrs softly and walks towards Daisy. But after two or three steps he sits on the wood floor. He breaths heavily. “What is going on? She strokes chottu’s head. “ Come on kitty,” She coxes, “ you are a strong kitty. Come. Do you want me to feed you today?” Daisy runs to get the cat food. Rising unsteadily to his feet, Chottu lowers his head to the bowl but does not eat any. He rubs the top of his head against Daisy’s leg and purrs. And his purr is very feeble. “ Poor thing, Daisy sits on the floor close to Chottu and calls her husband to take him to the veterinary.

The next morning, a cloudy day. It is hard for Daisy to concentrate in her work. She wants to know Chottu’s health condition. Around noon she calls her husband. 

“ We have to let him go. The virus has spread in his body and he is suffering. Pray for him and for his soul. He will be with us in his next life. Are you listening?” Daisy’s husband asks in the phone.

Daisy drops the phone on the counter. She leans her elbows on the table and cries.

“…love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kahlil Gibran

 

Her memory

Blur

Every hour a thought floats to the surface. If we’re all going to end up happy together in Heaven then why does anyone wait? A big sadness hangs behind her ribs, sharp and gleaming, and it’s all she can do to keep breathing. She does not know the reason but one early morning she had to fly to her grandfather’s house with her dog Luke. She never goes anywhere without her parents! Her grandfather’s house is long and narrow, like a train  and it has five bedrooms: a big living room in the front, a rectangle kitchen, a prayer room, one study room and other two are bedrooms.  The windows are all the same but the color and the pattern of  lacy curtains are different in each one.Grand father hugged her in the middle of a sentence and there are tears on his cheeks. “ Are you okay?” Riana asks with deep concern in her eyes.

“ Yes, now that you are here everything will be fine.” He replies. He says that there was a time when all the houses were a collective farm and grandmother used to walk everyday to work in a chemical plant. She was a brave woman. Now she has to be hooked up to her oxygen machine every night. “ It must be the chemicals!” He says with a heavy sigh. It is cancer. First they found it in my mom, then in dad in his lungs. She imagines cancer as a tree: big, black, leafless nasty tree which took her parent’s lives. Riana walked into her grandmother’s room to meet her. Her face resembles a lot with her mother. “ Hello grandma!”

She smiles and asks her to sit on her bed. “How are you young woman? It is so nice to see you here. Make yourself home and feel free to ask if you need anything. Your grandpa will help you.” “Thank you grandma.”

In the afternoon Riana stands on the front porch.Out side she can hear the little white butterflies are looping through the willows, the grasshoppers chewing the leaves.

“God made the world and everything in it.” says her grandfather. Riana thinks, then why isn’t everything perfect? She wants her parents back in her life. Up in the sky she sees her dad sipping coffee and watching the evening news and her mother reading a book leaning on the couch. Their cat is taking a nap on a piece of  old newspaper. It is not that blurry at all.

“ Tell me about my mom.” Riana asks her grandmother sitting on her bed. She glances over and then her eyes are a thousand miles away. She tells all trips down the river in boat, fun days of picnics in the park,  time that they spent in the swing set reading stories together. Suddenly she pauses and closes her eyelids. Riana understands and leaves the room quietly.

Oné rainy day,when she was five something happened to her. Her mother called the family physician and she put some drops in her eyes. Pretty soon all Riana could see are blurs and colors.Dad was a fog a mom was a smudge and world looked like it does when your eyes are full of tears. A couple of hours later, right when she was riding in the back seat of mom’s car, the world started coming back to focus. She could see the trees, the leaves more clearly dark on the top and pale on the undersides, are moving independently but still in concert with others.

Almost everyday she misses her parents; mom walking into the grocery store holding her hand or to the library picking books for her and the bicycle ride and story time with her dad.Sometimes in the silence she feels her mom, together with her, under the beautiful sun, both of with decades to live.

Her grandfather does not believe her. He sits on the edge of his bed, elbows on the small table with droopy eyes and broken blood vessels in his cheeks. He wipes his eyes and tells her that she needs read more books and start thinking about school. Riana stands close to her grandfather. “You don’t believe in anything that you can not see or feel? I believe in souls and I feel my mother on my side. Even I see her and dad sitting on the puffy cloud” Riana says angrily and leaves the room.

That night she lays in her bed with her grandmother. The unpainted plaster of the wall slowly cracking all around her. She tries to remember a sentence mom or dad said but everything seem so blurry!

Twists of Fate

Unseen

It is the weekend after the Spring break. Emmylou and her father are having breakfast. She probably should sit facing her father and not the window so he would not have to compete with the diversions outside a few kids riding their bikes, an older woman is playing with her tiny Affenpinscher dog in her front yard, the construction that is going on at the end of the cul-de-sac, two squirrels scampering through the trees. They would have to wait  for her father to finish talking about miracles.

Her father believes in those things and in grand schemes God, religion and her.A few years ago, in November, Emmylou had a car accident. There had been intermittent  freezing rain, her car slipped and hit a truck.

Her father asks taking a sip from his hot coffee. “It is unbelievable! And I am thankful to God for protecting you.” He continues, “ There is one woman runs a wildlife charity, would you like to volunteer there? Try, you may like it.” He hands her a newspaper classified.

Emmylou has made it through high school and one year of college before the car accident. She is that kid, who moves sideways, lags behind, forgets her buddy in the partner system and loses the group. She has read a report from neuropsychologist that her executive function is severely impaired due to frontal-lobe injury.

“ So,” her father says. “ Are you ready for the interview?”

Emmylou takes a long deep breath and takes a sip from her herbal tea. Art and crafts she could do well or if she could find a job that allows her to play all day, that could have been perfect. The job search has been an integral piece of their morning routine for last two years. It is a complex exchange full of limited expectations, consistent disappointment.

Her father kisses the crown of her forehead on his way out and she watches his car fades beyond the driveway.

Emmylou walks into the kitchen.On the stainless steel refrigerator door there are a few faded magnets of wonder woman, ‘ I can do it’ and ‘Believe in yourself’ that her mother made infused with her strong believes. She passed away in cancer leaving Emmylou. Emmylou misses her mother her love and the time that they spent together.She wiped her tears and  looks to the other side of the refrigerator door.There is a long note from her father.

1.Take pills.  Pills to stabilize her mood, even if each one has a side effect that thins her hair and slows her metabolism.

  1. Feed Angel.  Angel is her cat. She is eleven years old tabby, has a shiny coat,mild arrogance, lots of stubbornness and a huge appetite.
  2. Shower and dress.  Clearly later. May be she could go back to sleep again or after one more cup of herbal tea.
  3. Find clothes for the interview.  Emmylou walks into her room. Clothes are everywhere spilling from the closet, exploding out of the chest of drawers, on the floor mingled with cat hair and dust.Folding requires fine motor skills and she does not have them. Her hands are weak and she can not fold them properly. She finds one black skirt in the back of the closet and one blue silk blouse which need ironing. She has to wait on that.
  4. Think about cleaning your room.Really!!

Emmylou looks around. Reams of papers are scattered everywhere, used art supplies on the desks. By the end of week her room is a colossal accumulation of socks, broken pencils, books and magazines.Every cleaning crew that her father has ever sent over, refused to work unless she could first get her room into “ manageable” shape, a concept which she does not know. “Sure I will try cleaning the room but in my way.” Emmylou mumbles.

The rest of the day goes fine. After shower,she watches a documentary on elephants,on polar bears, on climate change. Then she sits by the window sill and watches outside A spotted squirrel focuses on an acorn. Emmylou grabs her sketch pad.The squirrel is holding the nut in his tiny hands, gnawing on it pieces by pieces. She imagines his determination which pulses through her pencil creatively. She is almost done with her picture when her dad returns home.

Today her father has brought Chinese food for dinner so that they do not have to cook. He hands her a fortune cookie from the bag. “Open it.”

Emmylou opens it. “ Door will be opening for you.” it says.

“You see?” her dad says with a big grin. “ You never know what life will bring.”

Emmylou rolls her eyes. “You are taking a fortune cookie to heart?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” he says. “ The cookie knows.Tomorrow we will go together to the nature center, you will feed the ducks and approach the owner for the interview. And the door will open for you. You love to take care of the animals and this will be a perfect opportunity for you.” There is confidence in his voice and Emmylou is excited.

New Year

Year

It is almost midnight. Daphne pulls out her journal, not the old one but a brand new one in shiny cover. A precious Christmas gift from her daughter. In that journal every page starts with a unique quotes. Yes, this is perfect! She opens the first page to write her New Year’s resolutions. The whole situation plays like a movie. Imagine that you are the main character either in a movie or in a book and you wish to do some things. Suddenly towards the end of the story boom!All your wishes are granted. Just like that Daphne smiles as she starts to write the resolutions one after another and feels as if they are almost in her fingertips. It is no doubt that she is very determined and she may be successful. She pauses, her fingers caress her pointed chin,and then opens the old journal. There is a heavy sigh. She checks all her last year’s goals – she has achieved some of her resolutions in writing posts on refugee crisis, on women’s issues and on poverty.Then she wanted to do more volunteer work which she has not done in this year. The other important aspect is her health.Well, she goes to the gym regularly which is perfect although she ends up in the classes like kickboxing, RIPP instead of yoga or spinning. Daphne is head strong but her weakness is the sweet. This Christmas she went to the store to buy gifts. She had the list but strange thing happens as she steps into the store, mostly in the aisle with chocolates and cookies. So that day she returned with gifts and two big boxes of chocolates. She nodded her head in disbelief and the chocolate lasted only for a week At the end of the week the boxes were neat and clean like brand new boxes and ready to be recycled.The exercise will help you thirty percent but diet is the other seventy percent to be healthy that is her  doctor’s prescription. 

Daphne stops writing and leans against the cushion. There is silence in the room and it is so quiet that you can hear the hum of the refrigerator. A sudden brightness flashes on her face.  “Not to worry.”She adjusts herself on the chair more comfortably and opens the new journal again. “ I will start all over again.This year I will not get any sweets, sign up for more volunteer program and practice mindful meditation.” A big challenging smile plays on her lips. 

Daphne stretches her legs, then crosses her legs and opens the new journal.As she bends down to write the inner window in her mind pops open. “ Are you sure that your goals are realistic? You do not want to write them and forget as the days pass by. Are you??”

A deep sigh again. She sits with both elbows on the desk, rubs her forehead and sits with both hands on each side of her face.

Making resolutions at the start of the New Year is like the season for orange or blue berry. Everyday would be filled with false starts and high ambitions. She might even make a lots of progress towards the goal but ultimately she would always give up before reaching the goal. Daphne has a high hope that everything will turn around perfect in this year. She has to do something different. The entire New year resolution phenomenon essentially boils down to habit-making and habits are built over time. Her job is to contribute a bit each and every day until the habits are built. Daphne sits straight. Now her face is brightly illuminated with a strong hope and determination.

resolutio1

Wishing on a star

Hopeful

A little girl is shouldering through the crowds.She walks in the middle of all the legs, luggage’s and lots and lots of children. Her heart beats like a tambourine under her ribs, tight and loud.The crowd follow their paths pushing and pulling around her,paying no attention at all. Her breath comes in short breaths like Carter’s horse and she feels tired. She is in the crowd but alone. The air smells of sweaty fear.Just at the corner of a pile of rocks, her memory bag slips and falls into the ground from her shoulder. A lots of happy memories are there; lots of from her home, her friends, her parents. But also the sad and scary memories of running around with her mother, hiding in cramped spaces,  squeezing the bodies and holding each other.The memory of hunger; it grew insatiably; her mouth began to expand, its roof rose to the top of her skull then the whole head was racked with pain. Some people ate grass and garbage and she just drew her tongue and chewed on nothing. She fights the urge to reach down and touch them. But she stops.

“ Sara! Sara!, wake up!”

Sara opens her eyes., startled and gasping for air. It is middle of the night. She notices a woman approximately the age of her mother stands close to her bed and observes her closely. “ Tell me dear,are you having bad dreams?” She says with a warm smile. The woman picks up the blanket from the floor and asks, “ Would you like to come outside to the celebration? There are lots of kids of your age to welcome the new year. There will be lots of fireworks too!”

Sara looks outside and then back at the woman’s face. The smile on the lady’s face is wide open, sunny without a doubt that everything will be wonderful again but six years old Sara is doubtful. The rebel army killed her parents, her friends and took away everything that they had. Faith is a distant and a vague word now. She hesitates a little but changes her mind. As Sara climbs down from the bed, the lady takes a quick step and holds her hand.She has lost her right leg in a gunshot during the rebel attack.

Outside of the ten, in the vast open space the fireworks have started. Happiness, excitement and new hopes float in the air.Tonight Sara wants to dream again. She closes her eyes, leaning on a tree. Her prayer for the New Year is something different. “ I want people to be nice, to be respectful and to love each other. I hope for peace, just peace nothing else.”

peace

 

 

 

Image

Dense fog and sunny day

Discover

There is no time for luck or good fortune or discovering new things in life instead to be at work from early morning to midnight. Jade works in a garment factory where she sews until her arms fall asleep. She sews elegant and expensive dresses which wind up looking very nice on Italian, Canadian, Swedish, American women, different ones for every season. Cutting, stitching, finishing, ironing, packing all the time makes life more difficult when you are not worthy of the product. It is difficult to break the agreement and to look for another job. She sits quietly looking at her severely dry long bony fingers. Her father used to say that long fingers are perfect for drawing, playing piano or any musical instrument, they are very artistic fingers. She remembers when for the first time she played the ‘Flight of the bumbled bee’; she played like lightning, every note so clear and perfect that the audience  were mesmerized and then clapped hard. It was her greatest revelation. But now it seems as though her life has been rolled up like a newspaper, fastened with a rubber band and tossed into the bushes. After her father passed away she started the job in this garment factory. A fat fly buzzes in circle just above her head. It settles on her one arm, she tries to swat it. Then it lands on the back of her neck, below her ear. It escapes and perches on the window frame. Jade tries to shoo it out through the open window into the air; she wants it to fly freely in the open air and to enjoy its freedom. She wants it also for herself and the people of Syria.

Sunlight falls in the long hall, while fluorescent light burns overhead. All the ladies are like tired children of a camp. Jade’s heart thumps inside her head. She leaves the half-stitched dress in the showing machine and grabs her small handbag.

Next morning She stands with a cup of hot tea. she holds the chipped cup delicately pinching the curved handle between her thumb and forefinger. She looks outside of her kitchen window. There the small black birds fly through a vast stretch of sky in circles of their own invention. This morning they are flying low and by looking at them she could tell that it is a whole new day.

Jade does not have the luxury of a car so she walks aimlessly on the streets to discover something new. The street side vendors are a destination, inviting her to linger. She sits on a wooden stool and orders ice-cream. Just when her exasperation at the wait  reaches the breaking point, the ice-cream arrives. It is a mix flavors of vanilla, chocolate with so many nuts. She takes one spoonful of ice-cream and it is delicious! She leans at the edge of the chair, her eyes wander around. At one corner of the street, under a small leafy tree an old woman sits. She is very frail and bony and from her torn, heavily patched cloth she looks very poor. She stares straight ahead, seemingly lost in memories. Jade stops eating and walks up to the woman. “ Would you like to try this?” She asks as she hands her the cup. She opens her purse and gives a few rupees. A grateful, happy warm smile lingers on the old lady’s face.

It is almost evening. Jade is all wrapped up, the decorated street lamps and lighted windows are glittering, the frost bit into her face, her lips feel like frozen crusts of bread, cheeks are smooth and cold as porcelain. The sky and streets are full of Christmas spirit. Jade stands in-front of a shop, her arms folded on her stomach, one foot crossed. The concentration is on the beautiful gown on the mannequin. “ I would love to see that on me.” Then she steps back. She has to save the money until she finds another job. “ Well, nothing wrong in just trying.” She murmurs and walks into the store. The heavy glass door opens in a soft click. She stands in-front of the long rectangular mirror with the dress. The sales woman asks her adjusting the belt on the dress. “ It looks so pretty on you and fits perfectly. Would you like to buy this?”

“ I will think about it, thank you.” Jade replies touching the soft fabric of the  blue dress and watching the news on the small television on the wall-” The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebels held part of Aleppo ended yesterday, after weeks of heavy fighting, Damascus announces complete victory in the battle to retake eastern Aleppo from rebels.”

That is the best part of her discovery. The dress falls into the floor as she runs around the room, a huge smile sparkle on her overly excited face, she is happy for all the people and especially the children . Her struggle is not much comparable to the people of Aleppo.

Her inner strength

Calm

Nora wants to live more than a hundred years. She has planned everything in her mind, in front of her the future has stretched out like a long shimmering road.  But the other day when she fainted in her gym class, the doctor in the hospital told her  mother that her lungs are not good. But it can be changed. She has to draw the cool, clean air in, treasure it and release it and she has to stay a couple of days in the hospital. That will make her lung good as new. Ten years old Nora is confident that she can do it.  Although it is hard for her mother Maisie.

Nora dwindles over packing, folding, refolding her clothes, tucking in a few moments to brighten up her room before she leaves for the hospital. She squares the cover of her bedsheet, smooths the bedspreads,tilts the shade of the lamp cover of the reading lamp. She stands in the middle of the oval rug. Her room is small but tidy and decorated in shades of blue, her favorite color. Each significant object has a name and to each she says goodbye or rather until they meet again. Nora closes the door.

Maisie is busy or rather tries hard to stay that way in the kitchen. It is hard for her to see her daughter in this condition. Nora runs into the kitchen. “ Mom, Uncle Jess is here to take me to the hospital.” No answer but Nora knows her mother is sad and afraid. Nora hugs her mother with her small hands. “ I will be fine mom, and come visit me in the hospital.” Her mother sighs. Nora picks up her small suitcase.

The air is cold. From the car window Nora looks at the house. Her mother stands there leaning slightly to the metal mail box in her walker. She waives her hand to her mother and wipes her tears.

There is not much to do in the hospital wake up,  take bath, eat, read,take nap, watch television and be patient while the doctor takes a lots of test. The ward is alive with gossip, mostly about the imaginary romances between this or that girl or a boy or men. It is like a soap opera to her like the ones that come in television and her mom always say they are not real, just wastage of time and brain. Nora spends her time in reading the encyclopedias that her mother brought for her. She loves the mysteries inside and the beautiful information in them, their sedate dark-green binding, gold letters on their spines. She slides the little tower of books towards her slowly as though they are gathered treasure. Reading makes her calmer; she does not care about the hospital or health, she is confident that everything will be fine.

On the other hand her room-mate Liona is quite different. She loves to gossip in the phone with her friends. Some days she invites Nora to meet her friends in the lobby. But they laugh a little, sit pretty on the sofa touching their fancy jeweleries or adjusting their new hairstyles, gossiping on useless topics. “They are less sympathetic than the ambulance chasers. They are not real friends.” Nora murmurs to herself. When her mother comes to visit her the ward turns into a playground as if azaleas bloom and honeysuckle perfumes the air. Her mother tries to stay calm but sometimes she is washed to the emotion of rage which she does not know how to control its directions. At the end of the month  it started to get harder for her mother to see Nora in the hospital. She wants her to go to school, play with her friends and to have a normal life. She argued with the doctors. “ Nothing has happened to my daughter. She will be fine at home and I will take good care of her.” 

Just before Christmas Nora returns home with her mother. They sit in their living room. The bare  Douglas-fir-tree sits on the corner of the room and the ornaments in a metal container. Her mother smiles brightly at her. “ Have faith and everything will be alright.” She says wrapping her hand around Nora tight as a robin’s nest. As they hang the ornaments on the fir-tree, her mother says,“ You are an angel straight from heaven.”

 

Image result for image of a christmas tree

Surprising Turns

Moody

Maeve has been blessed with beauty and a pencil. Her beauty comes from within she is honest and kind-hearted, and the pencil – a gift to open up her creativity. The other day when she was begging for food in a crowded town in Calcutta, a shiny white car stopped at the curb of the road. Maeve ran towards it with a plastic bowl as a woman stepped out from the car. She waved her hand as the gold bracelets jingled and hid her beautiful leather black purse behind her back. “ I do not have any money to spare, go away. ” She began walking off.  She pivoted sharply back towards Maeve, “here take this pencil, it may help you.” The yellow pencil bounced a couple of times on the dirty road and then laid still on the side of the road. Maeve walked up quickly and picked up the pencil very gently in her small hand. From that day onwards that became her treasure.

She picks up torn, wrinkled papers from the side of the roads, from the fields, from the school grounds and last time she struggled with a cow for ten minutes to drag a perfect white paper from cow’a mouth. She collects them and in her spare time draws pictures on them with the perfect yellow pencil. Her father does not like her spending time in useless things instead he wants her to spend more time in begging. Every night after Maeve returns home, her father snatches the plastic bowl and takes all the coins. He spends her daughter’s begged coins in drinking cheap liquor. Her mother on the other hand encourages Maeve to draw. “Maeve, take a break. Your father will return late today so spend your time in drawing whatever you want to.” Her mother says in a warm voice placing in front of her a thin piece of white bread and cup of black tea in a chipped cup. Maeve is grateful to the woman who gave her the pencil and to her mom who allows her to draw. She wraps both her small hands around her mother’s waist. Delight blooms on her face.“Thank you mom, you are the best.”

But life is very moody just like the humans. It is a one long curve, full of turning points.

It is a rainy day in December. The rain continues for a long time, the thunder lasts for more than an hour rumbling low and long. Instead of staying inside the patched gray tent which is their house, Maeve’s father decides to take her to another bigger town. “ But dad, it is raining outside and I am not feeling well. Let’s go tomorrow.” She begs as she tries to cover herself with one of her mom’s torn blue saree and concentrates on her drawing. Her mother insists not to let go of Maeve but father’s deep voice echoes. “ Yes, she has to go and I have already talked to the woman.”

“ What woman? Where are we going?” Maeve asks her dad. But no answer. “ Go get ready, we have to go today.” There is nothing to pack except one dress and her pencil and drawing papers in a plastic bag. As they leave, her mother hugs her tightly. She cries muttering repeatedly to forgive her. Eight year’s old Maeve’s simple heart does not understand anything, but she leans into her mom’s frail body. “ We will come back soon, don’t worry mom and I will surprise you with prettier drawings.” Her mother stands there outside the tent, in the rain, crying loudly and begging her father to stop.

Life is moody; sometimes it brings you joy and sometimes unbearable sorrows.No one can predict the next moment.

It is a long walk. In one point of the day, the rain stops and the sun tries hard to peep out from behind the cloud. Maeve and her father sits under a dull green woody tree waiting for a bus.His father sits looking out with his back against the tree trunk. His knees bent and feet flat against the red-brown sand. In front of him the landscape is speckled with a few trees that stand either alone or in group. Maeve opens the lunch bag that her mother packed. After lunch she asks “ Dad! Are we going to the doctor? If not sick then why are we going to another town?”

“ Have patience.” His father’s voice is dry and irritated. Maeve decides to talk to the tree nearby and ask the same question. The tree at one point clears its woody throat and says, “ I can not answer your question but I am very thirsty and can barely talk.” Maeve runs to her father’s side to get the water bottle and pours all the water on the tree. “ I hope that quenches your thirst.” Her father screams, “come here and sit quietly.”

As Maeve turns towards her father, she notices that the water that she poured over the tree has risen to her father’s face and they drip from his eyes.

As they drive off in the bus, she waves goodbye to the tree but surprises at his father’s tears. He never cries!

After a few hours they reach in another town. It is almost night. A harmony of shrieking metal-wheeled carts, barking dogs and gentle rhythm of human noises. They unroll a thin gray blanket under a tree. Maeve sits there staring at the zig-zag white patterns that pierced the woven sky and slowly drifts into sleep. Next morning is a cloudy day.They start to walk and arrive at the destination after three hours; a two-story red house squats upon the  hill with a group of wind-tormented trees opposite to it. The bricks are chipped, sharp and eroded at the corners The guard at the gate lets them in. A narrow stony staircase leads to a tall red door. As you enter it opens up into a long, narrow hallway which is lit by a single light bulb. A faded plain beige carpet with painted flowers on the sides is on the floor. At the other end of the hallway there is a thick  maroon colored curtain and a small bell on the white wall. Maeve’s father rings the bell. A tall woman appears in a fancy saree. Her arms are crossed, her eyes narrowed and eyebrows lift over icy brown eyes. “ You are late!! Leave her here and go back home.”

Maeve’s dad nods his head and shifts her attention to his daughter. “ It is all my fault darling. I do not have any other option.” He moves forward to hug Maeve as he hears a strong commanding voice from behind.

“Leave now.” The guard thrusts a thick envelope into his hand.

Maeve glances at his father’s face.Their gazes touch and from him she feels  terror and panic. “ Father do not leave me here.” She holds her pencil tightly in her hand as warm tears roll down on her cheek.  Her small body thumps on the floor. “ Listen dad, I just want to draw pictures, if you want then I will sale them and bring a lots of money to help you. You do not have to worry. But do not leave me alone with strange people. Give me a chance to your little girl. Dad! Dad!”

 

A long walk

Giant

People think packing a small suitcase is something that you learn through practice, like singing or praying. Eight years old Yara has no practice at all. She has arranged her favorite coloring book with two colored pencils, a book of fairy tales which her father brought as a special gift on her last birthday, a framed picture of her on the lap of her grandmother, and two slightly torn dresses and a tooth brush.One of her dress is baby blue with white frills but missing one pocket on the front and the other one is a pretty lilac dress with velvet trim and has a small patch on the back. She has no idea what she is packing for,except a long journey. On one side of the suitcase her dog sits wagging his small brown tail. His curios eyes glances at Yara.  Yara runs to her mother. Her penetrating brown eyes look out through tangled hair. “ What about Kazo? I want to take him too.”

Her mother sighs. “ Kazo can not travel so far. He will miss playing in the village, so let her stay here. Do not worry, she will be fine. I will make sure and ask our neighbors to take care of her.”

Yara is confused now. She arches her an eyebrow. “ But mom, we do not have the neighbors any more. The bad people has burnt their houses.”

Her mother turns back abruptly.She pulls Yara closer. “ Don’t worry, I will find some one but now there is not much time. So go get your bag.”

One of her friend cries holding her tightly before she leaves the house. “ I will miss you but I know you’ll come back.We will go to school together and play with Kazo.”

Yara hugs her friend and carries the sentence with her. A sentence like that keeps her alive in her journey.

It is impossible to count how many people are walking and it is a long walk in a cloudy day. Yara walks  slowly dragging her tired feet holding her mother’s hand in the middle of all the legs, luggage s and lots of children. Some people talk a lot quietly with eyes wide open and some cry a lot quietly with eyes shut and air around them smells of fear and anxiety. They walk countless hours without stopping.

After the long walk they travel in a small and cramped boat, squeezing their bodies and holding each other. On the fourth day most of them run out of food. The giant hunger grows insatiably. Her mouth begins to expand, its roof rises to the top of her skull, then the whole head is racked with pain. Yara draws her tongue and chews on nothing.Her mother notices. She opens her small bag and searches for something and then a small smile flashes on her face. “ Eat this Yara.”

Yara takes the small piece of stale sandwich from her mother’s hand and swallows.No words are adequate for the suffering caused by hunger. She leans against her mother and looks up. The moon on the sky seems like a cup of cold milk. Yara pretends to drink the milk and tries to sleep.

The journey on land starts again. In freezing cold or searing heat, they spend the entire journey holding each other’s hands. After this long journey their bones become heavy as iron when most of the flesh on the bodies disappear, their bones become a burden.

Now they are in a tent with all other refugees. Although it is very crowded. She lays wide-eyed on a narrow cot. Her thoughts come in disconnected glimpses of this moment and that. She remembers the beautiful evening with her grand mother. They sit on a giant wooden stump in the small front lawn. As Yara looks at the pretty sky full of silvery stars her grandmother says pointing at the sky, “ Do you know that heaven is very beautiful and peaceful.”

Yara turns her simple face towards her grandmother. “ What do you mean? Have you visited the heaven?”

Her grandmother laughs. “ I have not visited yet but I am sure I will.” Then her tone changes. “ The honest, truthful, loving people go to heaven so always be a good person if you want to go to heaven, there is no place for evil.”

It is a bright day, sun is still white and the heat closely packed. Instead of playing with other kids in the camp site or reading a book, she sits with her feet on the bench and both knees tucked under her chin. She misses her dad and her village. Bombs and missiles have been aimed at her little village and destroy everything. In the middle of one night the bad people like giants in masks took her father and he never returned. For a long time her mother has cried sitting on her dad’s favorite chair. Her neighbor’s village has already burned to the ground or the enemy soldiers have threaten to kill who do not leave the village. A few drops of soft tears escape beneath her eyelids and run down on her cheek. Her father used to say that each and every event has its own place and own time. This is Law of nature. It follows that everything has its reason for being in the world. Maybe it means I should wait patiently for the day to be better and a perfect time to go back to my home.After school, I will play hide and seek with Kazo.

 

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Lekhamisra

Lekhamisra

Hello and Namaste to my wonderful bloggers and readers. I am Lekha, grew up in one of the beautiful city of Odisha in the mystical land India. My paternal grandmother was a perfect story teller- stories of brave kings and queens to stories of freedom fighters, to stories on kindness,honesty, compassion, truthfulness. As soon as I learned to read, my marvelous adventures started through the fairy tales, the mysteries, the classics and the autobiographies. O’ Yes, it was lots of fun! At middle school my imagination started to take wings into short stories and sometimes in sketching. In 1987 I came to USA to continue my education in Psychology. Life got busy with my son and daughter in their school,library, music class, dance class, tennis, soccer, scout, debate...Staying active is very important for me.So after work, I enjoy going to different classes - kickboxing, RIPP, PiYo and Yoga. I have a deep affection and respect to Nature. For me winter is the champion. During winter vacation it is always delightful to hike on the gorgeous,stunning and beautiful snowy mountains in different national parks. After the children started their own lives, enormous time has poured into my weekends. I decide to do devout my time in volunteering. But still I could not satisfy my hunger and craving to do something more. One evening, I was reading some article on international issues on children, women,and on animal cruelty, which were very disturbing, traumatic and sad.I could not stop my tear or could not sleep. It is very hard to see others in suffering. Life is more fulfilling and rich when you help others, when you bring smile on others. “ Be a rainbow in someone else’s clouds.”- Maya Angelou. So I start to write again. I want my writing to be a strong voice for others in distress; for the innocent animals,for children, for women, on global warming and for all other social causes. Sometimes the truth is hard to digest but I am determined to reflect on those topics to make my readers aware on social issues. And I am thankful to WordPress for providing this wonderful platform to express my observation, views and dreams. I hope you explore the stories,enjoy and leave appropriate comments.

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